Michigan Association of School Administrators

Your Success. Our Passion.

Member Blogs

Blog Authors

David Britton, Godfrey-Lee
Rich Franklin, Athens
Scot Graden, Saline
Tony Habra, Paw Paw
Jerry Jennings, MASA
Michele Lemire, Escanaba
Vickie Markavitch, Oakland
Steve Matthews, Novi
Mike Paskewicz, Northview

MASA members: If you have a blog that you would like us to link please contact pmarrah@gomasa.org

The OSTC Summer Camp Experience: STEM, Cars and Cooking!

Written by Vickie Markavitch on Apr 22, 2015

 SUMMER CAMP for Oakland County High School Students: Enroll NOW!

Oakland Schools Technical Campuses are offering Oakland County teens a chance to have a high-tech, hands-on summer experience in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), culinary arts and auto repair. These exciting camps fill quickly, so register soon.




LOCATION: Northeast Campus (Pontiac)



LOCATIONS: Northeast Campus (Pontiac); Northwest Campus (Clarkston); Southeast Campus (Royal Oak); Southwest (Wixom)



LOCATIONS: Northeast Campus (Pontiac); Northwest Campus (Clarkston); Southeast Campus (Royal Oak)



LOCATIONS: Automotive Technology – Northeast Campus (Pontiac); Collision – Southwest Campus (Wixom)

 TO ENROLL > Click HERE for camp enrollment and medical forms 

About OSTC > Oakland Schools Technical Campuses


Blog Editor: Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools


 Oakland Schools • 2111 Pontiac Lake Road • Waterford, MI 48328-2736 • 248.209.2000

04/2015 High School Visits

Written by Tony Habra on Apr 21, 2015

Spending Time at the High School

As the weather finally starts to feel more spring like, I find myself itching to get into my woodshop and start building again.  Of course, there are those who might describe it as escaping to my woodshop so I might avoid spring cleaning, but to me that’s just semantics.  Slipping out of the places winter confines us to is a theme in either case and I try to do the same during my workdays.  I managed to get out of my office and head over to the High School a couple times in the past two weeks and this is what I saw.

In Mrs. Barkes’ room I watched as she used an audio book to add dramatic tension to the story the students were reading.  Every now and again she would stop to check understanding, ask the students to predict what they thought would happen next and then require them to think deeper and more critically by explaining why they thought it would happen.  She also used what was happening in the story to connect with students’ real life activities.  When one student seemed disengaged she asked him to explain what he would do (stay by the fire or seek help for a wound) in the same situation since he was an outdoorsman.  This connection pulled the student back into the story and the learning.

I entered Mrs. Derhammer’s class just as she started Flex Period.  This year the high school won an award from the Michigan Association of School Administrators for the Flex Program and it was easy to see why.  Mrs. Derhammer started by having the students talk about how many days were left in the year and how short a time that truly was if the students were missing any assignments.  She then called each student over individually and went over grades and assignments in each of the student’s classes.  She firmly placed the responsibility for learning on the students, even as she displayed compassion and attention by showing that she was there to help in any way she could.

Mr. Marinich had his students in small groups.  They were on the floor, surrounding desks, at tables or in some combination of all three.  The assignment was a combination of guided practice and puzzle creation and he was busy moving from group to group, listening, explaining, cajoling and praising.  The students were doing math problems and were really enjoying themselves.  They wanted to find the answers and they worked as teams to get the solutions, breaking down the tasks and working the problems.  It was a very real world example of today’s workplace with Mr. Marinich acting as the project leader for the team.

Ms. VanTilburg was also working with students in the same room and while Mr. Marinich acted as the project lead, she acted as the project support.  She shared the space directly with the students, sitting at their table, taking a desk or sitting crossed legged on the floor.  She spent the time to bring those students who might be moving to the outside back to the whole, even as Mr. Marinich moved the whole class forward.  It was a pleasure to watch this teaching team keep all the students engaged in their learning.

Mrs. Wesler was going over math homework problems, making certain students had a clear understanding of what was expected and what needed to happen to get the correct answer. What made this interesting and worthwhile for the students was the fact that she used this as a way to promote having the courage to take risks.  She got them to answer the questions and to answer each other’s questions.  At the end she put up a sheet with the correct answers to help them grade the papers they had just corrected.  Because the students knew that they were not going to be graded until they fully understood the process, the students were more willing to try for an answer.  Getting it wrong didn’t mean you would be ridiculed but instead it meant support and growth.  To me, that’s what learning is about.

I entered Mrs. Raymond’s class with three minutes left in the period, right before lunch.  This is not usually the best time to see learning happen.  Students are hungry, fidgety and often thinking about what they need to do to get down to the lunch line first.  Mrs. Raymond’s class was different.  Every student was focused and engaged with their work.  I entered and a few said hello, but returned to their work.  Mrs. Raymond moved from table to table and kept the students on task.  It wasn’t until Mrs. Raymond congratulated the students for their hard work and asked them to get ready for lunch that books started to be put away.  Clearly the students were there to learn.

On the way out I stopped in at the counseling office.  I congratulated Dr. Ross on her upcoming retirement and all she has done to support our students over the years.  I have witnessed her compassion for individual students first hand and, having been a counselor myself, I was impressed with the lengths she will go to make certain every student gets the care he or she needs.  She is a student advocate first, always keeping the students in the fore front of her mind.  She deserves her retirement, but her departure is a loss for our students.

Fortunately we have Mrs. Sinke to keep the department together.  She not only has the same level of concern and advocacy for our students, she has worked hard to build the connections that are so important in education and guidance counseling.  Next year she will have the added responsibility of bringing a new counselor up to speed, but I have every faith and confidence she can do so, all the while keeping our students first.

As I made my way back to my office to write up this review on what I saw, I got to thinking about spring again.  It’s not just the students who hear the call to be outdoors.  We adults have a strong desire to be there as well.  We are very lucky at Paw Paw Public Schools to have educators so committed to what’s best for students that they maintain such incredible focus.  My wife Kim has that same kind of focus and  I need to hurry to my woodshop.  I mean, right after I am done cleaning.

Students with Special Needs Find Life-Changing Employment via Project SEARCH

Written by Vickie Markavitch on Apr 20, 2015

I get treated like an adult.”  ▪  “There’s no high school drama.”  ▪  “It’s REAL work! 

Project SEARCH is a school-transition-to-work program that provides employment and education opportunities to 18-26 year-olds with cognitive and physical disabilities. The program is tailored for students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and can be a fifth year of extended high school, or part of an older student’s adult transition plan. Project SEARCH originated at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996; today there are over 350 licensed sites with two of the eleven current Michigan sites in Oakland County.

The concentrated, year-long work immersion program offers students intense job training and invaluable practice in ‘soft’ social skills. The work-based learning takes place on-site at the business, and combines classroom work with hands-on experience – which can lead to an offer of employment from the participating organization.

The key to Project SEARCH’s results is in its structured support; behind every student intern is a standing Monthly Meeting with the parent, student, special education teacher, job coach and Michigan Rehabilitation counselor. The meeting focuses on preparing both the student and his/her family for leaving the public school environment and becoming an employed adult in an integrated work setting. Students recognize and appreciate the highly professional difference in the Project SEARCH program, and meet the demanding curriculum with enthusiasm and dogged determination.

One student, living in Southfield, walks two miles to take the first of two buses he uses to get to his Project SEARCH internship at Troy Beaumont by 7:45 AM every day. People with special needs don’t get many life-changing opportunities, and the participants’ commitment to Project SEARCH is strong. The first day, this young man missed a bus connection so he walked the seven miles from Oakland Mall to the hospital. Imagine this devotion in your workplace!

Currently operating at two Oakland County hospitals (Beaumont Health Systems, Troy Campus and Henry Ford Hospital, West Bloomfield), the program is also looking to connect with other businesses such as culinary and manufacturing companies for additional student employment. The organizing Collaborative is interested in adding a third Project SEARCH site in northern Oakland County.

The wraparound work support that Project SEARCH offers in Oakland County is an alliance between:

  • Public Education (Special Education Teachers and Transition Coordinators)
  • Vocational Rehabilitation (Job Coaches, from New Horizons Rehabilitation funded through Michigan Rehabilitation Services; Bureau of Services for Blind Persons)
  • Community Mental Health (Macomb Oakland Regional Center – MORC; Community Living Services-CLS)
  • Local Businesses

Project SEARCH is finishing its fourth anniversary at both hospital sites; initially, about 12 departments were on board – but the number has grown to 30 departments as staff realizes the benefits of Program SEARCH interns and employees. Student workers are loyal, dedicated and hard-working, and contribute to their workplace community. Departments have become closer as a result, and tell stories of Project SEARCH interns with different abilities making an impact on patients and enriching the often stressful hospital environment.

Project SEARCH at Cincinnati Children’s shares this poignant story: A new mom was coping with the shock of unexpectedly giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome. A Project Search intern, herself with Downs, came into the mom’s hospital room to perform her job-related tasks. When she saw the newborn she smiled, struck up a conversation and told the mom what a beautiful baby she had. Once home, the mom wrote the hospital and said “Your employee gave me hope, and let me know my baby’s future would be okay.”

Another student with autism found his niche by using his high-focus ability to streamline a hospital inventory process. He took the hospital, which was below the industry mark in this specific area, to an extraordinary 98% compliant rate – opening some eyes on the way.

As one Troy Beaumont staff member commented, “I didn’t realize the Project SEARCH students would be so capable!”

Beyond cost-savings, businesses have found that Project SEARCH teens and young adults help fulfill workforce diversity metrics in an area of diversity not commonly addressed. The student employees provide a visible, welcoming culture for all hospital customers, and often build long-lasting work relationships with members of their department teams.

Cathy Schmidt, special education consultant at Oakland Schools and acting Michigan statewide coordinator for Project SEARCH, manages the educational piece of the program and is the liaison between the multiple agencies that contribute to the project’s success.

“Project SEARCH is an incredible opportunity”, Cathy said. “It offers positive outcomes for families and local businesses – and competitive employment and independence for student participants.”

To become part of Project SEARCH, students must

  • Go through the application and interview process
  • Attend a daily cohort class located at the business
  • Successfully complete three 10-week internship rotations, where students perform work-related tasks and demonstrate ability to follow rules and safety procedures
  • Be able to work independently with minimal supervision

Cathy Schmidt added, “At the beginning of the year, the Project SEARCH interns are shy and not at all confident. Many are coming out of high school, where they may have been bullied or unpopular. At the hospital, they are trusted and given responsibility. They experience success and become part of a team. When they graduate from Project SEARCH they walk confidently across the stage…they have become completely different people.”

They have become important, respected, valued members of our community. 

Project SEARCH Team from Henry Ford Hospital, West Bloomfield


For more information about Project SEARCH in Oakland County, please contact Cathy Schmidt at Cathy.Schmidt@oakland.k12.mi.us

Project SEARCH 


Blog Editor: Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools


 Oakland Schools • 2111 Pontiac Lake Road • Waterford, MI 48328-2736 • 248.209.2000

PROPOSAL 1: Just the Facts

Written by Vickie Markavitch on Apr 16, 2015

On May 5, 2015, Michigan voters will head to the polls to vote on Proposal 1- a statewide ballot initiative that will raise funds to improve Michigan’s roads and bridges, and schools.

 Proposal 1 (2015-1) is a complex plan with a simple set of goals:

1. Pay down Michigan’s transportation debt

2. Fix structural problems with our roads and bridges

3. Protect and increase K-12 education funding

4. Provide tax relief for low income citizens

WHAT IS PROPOSAL 1? Proposal 1 asks Michigan voters to change how the state pays for roads and bridges. It also provides more secure funding for schools and local communities. It does this primarily through a 1 cent state sales tax increase.

WHAT HAPPENS IF VOTERS APPROVE IT? The sales tax would increase to 7 percent on Oct. 1, 2015. (Sales tax is not charged on groceries or prescriptions, and would not be charged on gasoline.) There would be an additional $1.2 billion for funding our roads, bridges and transportation programs. This revenue would be generated by removing the sales tax paid at the pump and replaced with a wholesale tax that generates a similar amount. All taxes paid at the pump are constitutionally guaranteed to go to transportation programs while the vast majority of sales tax would go to schools and local governments.

WHY DOES PROPOSAL 1 INVOLVE SCHOOLS? A large portion of the sales tax on fuel is dedicated to school funding. Proposal 1 will prevent the loss of revenue to schools when the sales tax is removed from the gas we buy at the pump. The 1 cent state sales tax increase will generate $300 million more for K-12 education. More important is the constitutional guarantee the School Aid Fund can only go to K-12 and community colleges.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE ROADS IF PROPOSAL 1 FAILS? Michigan ranks 50th in per capita spending for roads and bridges. More than one of every four bridges in Michigan needs to be repaired, improved or replaced. There is not enough money available without Proposal 1 to get ahead of expected additional deterioration, experts say. If Proposal 1 is not approved, Michigan’s roads and bridges will continue to decline at a rapid rate. There is no backup plan approved by the Legislature at this time. WATCH: Proposal 1 ROAD SAFETY Info VIDEO

Resources and more information

Proposal 1 May Be Complicated, but Has Major Implications for Schools (School News Network)

Frequently Asked Questions

Informational flyer from MASA

Michigan Sales Tax Increase for Transportation Amendment, Proposal 1 (May 2015)

CRC Memorandum: Statewide Ballot Issue: Proposal 1

Information provided from Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA)


Blog Editor: Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools


 Oakland Schools • 2111 Pontiac Lake Road • Waterford, MI 48328-2736 • 248.209.2000

4/1/15 Sliding Right Through March

Written by Tony Habra on Apr 13, 2015

Sliding Right Through March

Since I was fortunate enough to become a part of this district in January of 2014, I have worked hard to spend time in every classroom.  As the school year moves into the last quarter, it’s good to have a little time here in April to write about some of these visits. 

I went to Cedar Street and visited Ms. Kraft’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) classroom, a free preschool we house there.  Ms. Kraft was just getting the students up after their nap and each child was bringing out their individual cot, waiting their turn, and stacking the cot neatly in the hallway.  She smiled at each student, gave praise and encouragement, but never once had to scold.  After the students were all back in the classroom she gave them some structured choices and each child went to start his/her preferred activity.  It was a joy to watch and is now a pleasure to write about.  Ms. Kraft’s four-year-olds are already on their way to becoming College, Career and Community Ready!

Next I went to the Early Elementary.  I visited Ms. Butler’s room and it was easy to see why she received the Michigan Farm Bureau’s Educator of the Year award.  The level of excitement she creates for learning in her classroom is a sight to behold.  The classroom had several small groups and all of them were excited and focused on the learning happening between themselves and their peers.  Ms. Butler sat crossed legged on the floor working with one of the groups and orchestrating the whole thing with no apparent effort. Don’t be fooled though, it take a tremendous amount of work to make everything appear effortless in a classroom of second graders!

I stopped by Ms. Castellanos’ classroom and was pleased by the way she called everyone friend.  Although this seems like a small thing, it does a great job of lowering the barriers between teacher and student. When the teacher refers to the students “class” or “students” draws a line between the teachers and students, but calling them “friends” reinforces the fact that education is a two way street, where the teacher is the student as often as the student is the teacher.  Community!

Before leaving the building, I dropped in on Mrs. Koehn.  As I watched her teach her lesson, what impressed me most is that the entire time I was in her room she never once told the student’s the answers.  She asked, cajoled, praised and reworded each point.  She would ask a different student nearby his or her opinion, ask the class to talk to each other and share possibilities, and she would suggest other ways to get the answer.  In the end, the students would find the answer, teaching critical thought by asking students to think.  It takes a little longer but it ends with a much deeper understanding by the student.

Next I went to the Middle School.  I stopped in on Mrs. Harp-Campbell first.  She was in the process of sitting with each student individually to determine how far the student had progressed towards goals they had established earlier in the year.  She praised movement and turned “falling short” into an opportunity to shine in the near future.  Together, she and the student then talked about what the expectation was the next time they would examine the student’s goal.  Taking responsibility for one’s own learning draws a direct line to having the courage to take risks.  Outstanding!

As I passed Mrs. Patzkowsky I was impressed with the way she was working individually with students, but also with the way she was directing students to help each other.  She moved seamlessly from child to child, suggesting that one need to look more carefully at the rubric for the assignment, that another might want to ask the student two seats down for help, and that a third should grab a new assignment since she had finished the one everyone else was still working on.  Knowing what is happening in the classroom and having a sense of the needs of each individual student took hard work to master and is worth celebrating.

 I looked in on Mrs. Larson and was not at all surprised to see what is often referred to as “withitness.”  This skill is when a teacher is keenly aware of how to maintain the students’ engagement.  As she was working with the class I would see her make small adjustment in tone or proximity, make a statement to help students refocus or make a wholesale change of task all to keep the students engaged.  None of these changes were planned, they happened on the fly and without conscious thought.  They happened because Mrs. Larson has withitness.  They happened because Mrs. Larson knows that an engaged student is a learning student and she works hard to make certain every student is learning.

I started second period with Mrs. Reisterer and watched as she prepared the students for the lesson.  In the space of about a minute she reminded them of what they had learned in the past couple days, explained what the objective for the day was, and finished by telling them how it would help with the next day’s lesson.  By the time her intern started with the whole group lecture every student stood rapt and ready to hear what was being taught because they knew why they were learning it and how they would use.  Fantastic!

When I saw Ms. Olsen teach she was managing several different groups of students.  She was talking to individuals about what they needed to do to bring up their grades and groups about the assignments they had to turn in together.  She could see when students started to stray from her instructions and redirected them while still teaching others.  She had a tremendous amount of diverse learning happening and had each student focused or refocused on their own learning.  Nice work!

Finally, I was in Mr. Taylor’s classroom while he was running centers as the students were studying the ancient Greek civilization.  The one I was drawn to was the Minecraft center.  Students were using the middle school’s server, a server that Mr. Taylor sought and received a grant to purchase, to build a 3D example of the Parthenon.  The students can then take anyone on a tour of the structure they built, explain how it was built and what it was used for because they had built it themselves.  The students were captivated and focused and in the end they had a complete understanding of the structure and its purpose.  Creativity and critical thought!  Wow!

With this post I believe I have been in every teacher classroom in the Early Elementary, Cedar Street, Michigan Avenue Academy and the Middle School.  It’s my goal to get to all of the teachers before we slide into June.  We have amazing educators, celebrate them with me!